Monday morning commute. Other people's BO at 8am. Heat. Noise. All delights I was thrilled to become reacquainted with, and pay for the privilege. I quickly decided I hadn't missed them at all. Forty-five minutes later the system spat me out at Canary Wharf, my home from 1998 to 2009. I approached the familiar building with a spring in my step, no nervousness this time around. First up an HR induction, entirely predictable, entirely unnecessary. Was this my first time working there? Er, no. In fact I was working here while you were still doing your GCSEs. I didn't say this of course, but dutifully signed 12,235 forms in triplicate, promised not to send emails inciting racial hatred, and gave them my National Insurance number so that I could start funding bankrupt-Britain again.
All signed up, I progressed to security. There I queued, at vast expense, for forty-five minutes while a succession of dopey employees explained to the single man on duty on a Monday morning that they had lost their security passes over the weekend. Finally my turn, I was photographed, and a new shiny pass with the new me on it was issued. Through the turnstiles and into the lift.
I was back.
How strange it felt. People looked at me curiously, wondering if it really was (a thinner version of) me. Others, certain of my identity, came up immediately. I had the same conversation about a million times over the course of the day. What, you mean you've been doing nothing? Well, if you discount the childcare, the school runs, the shopping, the cleaning and general shite that comes with running a house, well yes, I've been doing nothing, just twiddling my thumbs really.
At my new desk, logged in, I looked myself up in the internal directory. There I was! But I was the old me again, the photo circa 2004. Big hair. More chins. And my old phone number too, and my old secretary. These I changed, but my email remains the same. I'm definitely back. I called a few people, just to see what would happen. Bloody Hell! What are you doing back here?! What have you been doing? Oh, nothing....
A short while later and I decided to tour my old floor. Same old same old, familiar faces, familiar voices. A real buzz - a trading floor - lots going on. More conversations, more envy. I tried the coffee machine. Cappucino awful, the espresso later was much better, though needed less sugar. Or more coffee. I had my old lunch. Not literally of course, but the same thing I used to eat more or less every day after wandering around the whole restaurant being unenthused by anything else. The BBQ sauce remains excellent, the salad dressing sub-standard and gloopy. Truly nothing has changed.
I've been out of the game, doing nothing, for over two and half years. I always said I would go back to work when Pudding started school, which was two weeks ago. Mrs L doubted my resolve, but I've done it. I hadn't meant go back to exactly the same place, but it was convenient. I'm very much a known quantity. They're prepared to let me transition back around my parental responsibilities, which is fantastic. I don't want to let go of that, I truly enjoy it. I'm part of my kids childhood, a real presence, rather than the dad they never see. It's important. Three years ago I failed to see that importance, it took getting made redundant and having it forced upon me to hammer it home. I was blind, but I soon saw. Money, useful but unimportant. Kids, wife (boss), family, home. That's what it's all about. Oh, and birds.
NB The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own and are not those of my employer, who are a fine, upstanding company, with moral standards far, far higher than my own.